It finally happened. Whenever I ride my bicycle by myself, and when I have a reasonable amount of time, I stop to raise fallen bicycles. I do this for three reasons. The first is obvious, I don’t like others to find their bicycle fallen over. It’s a special kind of sadness to find it lying there. You see it and think “Hm, that’s a little bit sad”, and I often get really sad because I tend to personify my treasured belongings. My two bicycles are very close to me, and to me they’ve got distinct personalities and I feel very bad if I leave them out in bad weather, or find them fallen. I would just be really happy if someone raised my bicycle if it had fallen, so I try to give that to the world.
(disclaimer, pictures in the post is not of the bicycles I raised, they’re of a bicycle I raised in Warsaw)
The second reason is slightly more convoluted. I raise up bicycles because I want people to see me doing it. I hope to inspire others to believe in the goodness of others. In the back of my mind I expect someone to see me and think “I will do this also!”. I would love if that happened, and I hope that it already has, but I can’t know of course. Many cynical voices have raised the concern that this is all for nothing, and that people simply aren’t like this. But I actively choose to be naive in these matters, I believe that in order to make the world a warmer place then we have to choose to be naive.
The third reason is just selfish. The third reason is that I want the owner of the bicycle to see me, and come over and say “Oh wow, you just raised my bicycle, you’re amazing!” and I’ll respond “Oh it’s nothing, don’t worry about it, I do all the time…” and they’ll ask “Wow, why? that’s amazing” and I’ll say something self-deprecating and falsely humble… And the rest of my day would just be magical.
Today the third reason turned into reality. I was riding towards the lakes on my bicycle to spend a little time in the sun before contact improv.
On the most boring part of the trip I spot two bicycles that are fallen over. I stop as fast as my worn down brakes allow me and get off. It’s winter in Copenhagen so I’m wearing a hat and a face-mask making me look like a crossover between a bike messenger and a burglar. I rest my bicycle against an advertisement box standing alone like some planet of the apes obelisk. I begin raising the bicycles and a car slows down to a stop behind me. I move to raise the second bicycle up and notice that a very young girl (I’m old enough to not be able to tell ages of those below twenty-five) behind the wheel. She looks like she’s swallowed something bad, and I return her stare calmly from behind my mask. It must be slightly unnerving to hold the stare of someone masked, and I get self conscious about it, and move to raise up the last bicycle. The car quickly drives off and I think she probably thought I was stealing the bicycles or something. I make sure the bicycles won’t fall again by putting them at the correct angle, and test both of them a bit to make sure.
I grab my own bicycle and I’m about to do a little musketeer bow to the two bicycles I just raised (don’t ask me why I do this). She comes running down the street, I look at her since she seems to be running at me. She stops right in front of me, and I pull down my mask remembering the effect it might have from before. She reaches out to hold on to the sleeve of my jacket. She doesn’t say anything for a little while, and I gather she’s grappling with what to say. I ask simply “How are you feeling?”, a go to question that’s stuck in me from many years of being a therapist. It makes absolutely no sense to ask a stranger, and that’s why I love doing it. It’s just quirkily fun and absurd to ask. She frowns and shakes her head and says (in Danish) “Why did you raise up those bicycles?” whereto I answer – well prepared – “I do it because I don’t want to find my own bicycle fallen”. She gets tears in her eyes and hugs me and says “That’s what I hoped”. I want to hug her back but I’m awkwardly holding my bicycle with one arm and the other is caught in her embrace. She’s short enough to have pretty much trapped me, and I can comfortable look down on her hair. I smell it, because I want to remember her smell. She lets me go and looks at me with tears in her eyes “Why are there not more people like you?”, and I guess she’s actually asking “Why are there not more people like me?” but I hold myself back from going straight into philosophy. I stumble towards expressing something like “I think there is” but it comes out sounding weird, and I shake my head and I say “Sorry, there’s not, I don’t mean that, I also wish that there is”.
She looks me up and down and asks me for my number, and I just say it, but she isn’t ready and she takes a little time to find her phone from her bag and says “Ok, one more time, you don’t have to answer, but I might write you, is that ok?” and I answer “If I don’t have to answer it’s ok”, and add “I mean I’m not saying I won’t…” awkwardly. She looks at me, and we both feel a rising self consciousness and I decide to deflate it by saying “Well, I’ll leave before it gets even weirder, maybe I’ll hear from you someday”, she asks for my name, and I give it to her, and them I’m off on my bicycle. A huge smile spreads across my face and I instantly feel a pang of guilt of not having asked for her name.
I ride my bicycle towards the city, and the sun comes out between the clouds. I feel like its rays are meant for me.